We all seem to have these pivotal moments in our lives. Moments that have come to define us. They’re not necessarily big moments. They’re moments that we easily recall. Moments that influences the way we approach life, for better or worse.
I had this type of moment as a teenager. My mother decided to use food can labels to wallpaper the bottom half of the wall in our kitchen. Don’t ask where she got the idea, but she started collecting labels from friends and family. When she had enough, she trimmed them and I helped her as she used wallpaper paste to stick them to the wall. Soon the lower half of the kitchen wall had a colorful array of labels. Whenever we sat at the kitchen table, it was hard not to read them.
That experience led me to a lifetime habit of reading food labels. Whenever I pick up a jar, can or package of something, I read the label. It wasn’t a thought driven by caution or concern. I wanted to know, “What’s in this?” But as time went on, I became aware that not all the ingredients in food are desirable.
I mention this because, as a chef, I do my best to limit the number of processed foods I use. Even those products we’ve trusted for years change. Small independent food companies are bought by larger ones. Like when General Mills acquired Cascadian Farms. Soon the amount of sugar in their cereals tripled.
Sometimes it’s impossible not to buy processed foods. Things like jars of tomatoes sauce, cans of tuna, and boxes of pasta line my pantry shelves. But there are simple things one can do to limit the number of processed foods we consume.
If you’ve never tried overnight oatmeal for breakfast, you’re in for a treat. Who knew that regular old fashion oatmeal could be so good? Better, yet? There’s no cooking involved. You mix the ingredients in a jar and let it sit overnight. In the morning you have a delicious grab-n-go meal.
You can customize the recipe to your own preferences as well. Love chocolate? Add cocoa powder. Adore blueberries? Add them. This recipe is so flexible. You can also make it vegan by using almond milk or any other nut milk. Want to make it sugar-free? Eliminate the honey or maple syrup and add the sweetener of your choice. I also use gluten-free oats so that makes this gluten-free.
Looking for a quick lunch or dinner idea? In the winter, I eat a lot of soup. I avoid canned soup because, well… I read labels. I have loads of easy recipes to share but this is one of my favorites. It’s so flavorful. Whether it’s for lunch or dinner, its a quick meal that is sure to warm you up. The soup is Stracciatella. It’s an Italian soup. This was my “go-to” recipe whenever I ran out of the soup de jour while operating my Cafe. It’s something I could whip up and have on the customer’s table in no time. You add beaten eggs, Parmesan cheese and baby spinach to chicken stock. That’s it! If you want something heartier, add a bit of precooked cubed chicken.
Another thing I like to do if I know I have a hectic week ahead is pre-plan some easy meals. I make a pot of rice on Sunday evening. (I prefer brown, but white rice will do.) This saves a great deal of time when I’m in a hurry and want to throw something together. Red beans and rice or a Burritos with sautéed vegetables and cheese are very filling.
I sometimes use it to make a quick Shrimp or Chicken Fried rice. To speed up cooking the sautéed vegetables, I cook them in the microwave for a bit. I tend to use red peppers, snow peas if I have them, carrots and broccoli. Instead of soy sauce, try Bragg’s Bragg Amino Acids. This is a non-fermented soy sauce I use to season many of my Asian style dishes. Is a wonderful addition to any pantry. In addition to the healthy amino acids, it’s lower in sodium and carbohydrates. There are also no chemicals and no artificial coloring. These are only a few of the ideas that can help you avoid using processed food!
- 6 cups chicken stock (If you don’t have any homemade, try reduced-sodium chicken stock or Better Than Bouillon Reduced Sodium Roasted Chicken Base to taste.)
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups baby spinach
- 2 tbsp Parmesan Cheese grated
- Bring the stock (broth or water) to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. If using the Better than Bouillon, add salt to taste.
- Whisk the two eggs in a bowl and slowly drizzle the egg into the boiling stock. (It will look like Chinese Egg Drop Soup.)
- Put the baby spinach or frozen spinach in the saucepan and reduce heat.
- Add cube chicken if desired.
- Cook for about one minute or until the spinach is wilted but still bright green.